Ethical Issues in Cyber bullying

Ethical Issues in Cyber bullying


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The use of intimidation, force or coercion to abuse imposed over others is termed as bullying. This widespread form of youthful aggression affects both children and teenagers in public areas such as bus stops, while in school or during their trips to and from school. Children and especially those in their teenage years are finding new ways of bullying their peers with the ever-growing era of technology and its continuous advancements (Hunter, 2012). Moreover, advancements of modern technology have enabled the would-be tormentors to find new ways in which they can extend their bullying strategies that is beyond the physical milieu via a situation that can be termed as cyber bullying. This ethical issue has been present since the familiarization era of technology in the world. Research has been done on cyber bullying in psychology and education as well. However, this research focuses on the sociological aspect of cyber bullying.

            According to the sociological perspective on classical ethical theories of deontology, virtue ethics and utilitarianism, cyber bulling can be termed as an ethical issue. Moreover, sociological views are based on different aspects that introduce ethical issues such as emotivism, ethical egoism and relativism. In order to understand the ethical issues involved with cyber bullying, the problem, theories on the issue and the ways through which the issue can be solved has to be identified. In addition, the responses from cyber bullying have to be contrasted with the sociological perspectives. 

Keywords: relativism, utilitarianism, deontology, ethical egoism, virtue ethics, cyber bullying

Ethical Issues in Cyber bullying

            Social media such as blogging, emailing and instant messaging have dominated the role of communication among young adults in the society. Teenagers are the most influenced by social media communication hence they are prone to cyber bullying. Cyber bullying has enabled both boys and girls to tease and harass their peers through online media of communication with as much obscurity as they wish (Hunter, 2012). As much as technology and its development are important to the society, they are accompanied by problems such as cyber bullying among children. It is evident that tech savvy children have been able to torment their peers day and night via technological devices such as cellular phones and computer systems. In order to get better insights regarding cyber bullying, the ethical issue, the problem it presents, how utilitarianism can resolve it, the contrasting solution presented by the ethical egoism perspective and providing my personal views about the best approach have to be identified.

            Questions pertaining to techno ethics have been raised because cyber bullying has become a major social concern in the world. It has resulted to various researches, which seek to identify what its major causes are, how they can be solved and prevented from happening. Cyber bulling is characterized by six significant features (Hunter, 2012). It is a harmful and aggressive behavior. Bullies have a common habit where they wish to harm their peers through ways that affect the mental and physical well-being of others, which often results to detrimental outcomes. Secondly, their behavior is repetitive in nature. After tormenting one particular child, tormentors do not get satisfied by their actions and often resolve to repeat the same action on another child. Whenever they manage to harass another kid, bullies feel satisfied and opt to perform it repeatedly; therefore, it becomes a habitual act. Peer relationships, which are characterized by a difference in power, provide an environment for bullying. In cyber bullying, not only these factors but also the presence of technology and its anonymity facilitates its occurrence. Moreover, punitive fears among the tormented children such as phone privileges and retribution from the bullies is a characteristic of cyber bullying. Bystanders in the cyber space offer to spread the behavior through forwarding of emails and images that facilitate it. Finally, young adults attempt to engage in activities, which they cannot do in a face-to-face situation. This results from their own anonymity that allows them to be bullied. These characteristics facilitate cyber bullying in one way or the other.

            In addition, there are four types of bullies(Stop Cyberbullying). According to the first type of cyber bullying, they believe that their actions cannot be considered as being harmful to the tormented children. The vengeful type of bully believes that their actions are a result of their strategies of protecting themselves from harmful situations. Eventually, the become cyber bullies by victimizing other children. The second type of tormentors is termed as either the power-hungry or revenge of the nerds. They often seek for power in order to attain a sense of satisfaction that they desire. The targeted children by this type of bullies are the unpopular and smaller kids. This is because they know that they are able to control them with ease.

 The mean girls are the third type of cyber bullies. As the name suggests, this type of bullies involves groups of girls who torment other girls in most instances or even boys. The main reason for their actions is that cyber bullying acts as a source of entertainment whenever they are bored. It often dies when the result of their actions does not entertain them so they decide to try out something else. Finally, the inadvertent cyber bullies end up being tormentors without their personal knowledge because their actions are not intentional (Stop Cyberbullying). Their actions may involve impersonation, acting tough or responding to their feelings of anger on other children. They are the type of cyber bullies who harass their friends without their knowledge thinking that it is a way of having fun.    

Ethical Problems

            Cyber bullying causes both psychological and emotional distress among the affected children. As a result, cyber bullied children experience feelings of low self-esteem, fear, anxiety and depression. Ethics is a cord of conduct. Hence, the ethical problems present both the tormentors and bullied children with a situation where they have to choose what they think are either right or wrong. The effects of cyber bullying are the major problems involving this issue (Hunter, 2012). It presents the children with overwhelmed feelings. Dealing with the stress accompanying the issue becomes too heavy for them to handle. During other instances, they may feel humiliated, vengeful, disinterested in life and school, vulnerable, isolated, depressed, and even ill. Eventually, such feelings result to suicidal thoughts among them. They are torn in between deciding whether they should commit suicide in order to end the problem especially when it becomes hard for them to handle the issue or not. This presents an ethical problem in the society because suicide is not an accepted action in the communal setting.  

            The effects of cyber bullying not only affect the bullied children but also the tormentors as well. In cases where they are identified and subjected to legal punishment, they too suffer from similar effects as those they harassed. However, ethical problems arise when such children are subjected to harsh criminal charges that result to jail terms (Hunter, 2012). The cyber bullying regulations should conduct adequate research before claiming that the child guilty. This is because it is not ethically right to convict a child to such harsh punishments. The bully’s intentions have to be identified since some of them do not even know that they are bullying others because according to them they had no knowledge that their actions were criminal. Hence, the convictions should be based on the initial intentions that the bully had in mind.

            Moreover, cyber bullying is similar to regular bullying. The only difference is that there is an expansion on the diversified places where individuals are able to interact and the nature of the harassment. Since the beginning of the twenty first century, aims of technological developments have been actualized through its evolution and spread in the world. Introduction of the social media has presented a way of communicating among most people in the society. The social life of young adults is converged into this small world, which is controlled by corporations such as Twitter, Facebook and Google (Shariff, 2008). Hence, the cyber activities are closely linked to physical interactions.

The regulations pertaining to the issue should not be based on high profile incidents but on the research of the case. The problem with the rulings made over these young lawbreakers is often based on the generalized effects of their actions such as suicide. However, it would be ethically right if the bullies are charged when their actions crosses the line between invasion of privacy, freedom of speech and harassment (Shariff, 2008). At this point, the bully is accused for the threatening statements he or she provided rather than murder in cases where the tormented child committed suicide. This would present a better way of dealing with the issue since it can be accepted by all members of the society due to its similarity to the regular form of bullying.

Resolving the Problem

            There are three theories that are used in solving ethical problems in the societal setting. These are the utilitarian, deontological and ethical virtue’s theories. However, much emphasis is placed on the utilitarian approach of resolving ethical problems. According to utilitarian classical theory, ethical problems can be solved by placing the locus of both the right and wrong exclusively on the outcomes or consequences (Mills, 2012). Hence, it extends beyond an individual’s personal interest in the decision-making process by taking into account the interests of other people. There are two types of utilitarian approaches, rule utilitarianism and act utilitarianism. Both approaches have different ways in which they resolve bullying cases.

            Act utilitarianism resolves ethical issues through strategies that benefit the majority who are involved in the case (Mills, 2012). The decision is often ethical right because it is based on the majority’s choice regardless of the personal thoughts held by the utilitarian in the case. Therefore, in cyber bullying, the first strategy would be to apologize for the wrongdoing of the bully to the tormented kid. This can be achieved through different ways such as personal apologies in a face-to-face scenario or through other media such as letters. In addition, the approaches can resolve cyber bullying by focusing on the four different types of bullies. Hence, the vengeful type of bullying can be resolved by enrolling such students in peer counseling groups where they can be taught that they should not take the law into their own hands. Additionally, the inadvertent cyber bullies can be enrolled on guiding and counseling sessions in order to resolve the case. This would help them learn how they can control their emotions instead of bullying others. Act utilitarianism best resolves these two types of bullying because the results are satisfactory to the societal members.   

Rule utilitarianism involves resolving cases by making a decision that is the most just and fair and benefits the community. This approach values both the societal benefits and justice hence it has added benefits compared to act utilitarianism. The power-hungry nerds are the most dangerous type of bullies because they have tech skills that enable them to bully their peers by proxy. This makes it hard for them to be recognized because their activities are discrete and they do not even mention their actions to their friends. Hence, the rule utilitarian best solves this type of cyber bullying by taking legal action through convicting the tormentors. Moreover, the mean girls’ type of bullying can be resolved by rule utilitarianism (Shariff, 2008). The girls can be handled by the school administration because most of these cases involve students from the same school. The bullies can be given punishment by the school administration, which would help solve cases of bullying and serve as an example to other girls who aspire to adopt the same type of behavior.

Ethical Egoism Contrasting Perspective on Cyber Bullying

            Nevertheless, ethical egoism has a different perspective pertaining to cyber bullying. The normative ethical situation where the moral agents suggest that an individual has to follow their self-interest is known as ethical egoism. It is important to note that it is different from psychological egoism where a person can only act in their personal self-interest. Ethical egoism also conforms to altruism since they both hold the fact that an individual’s personal status cannot be considered to be similar to those of others, hence cannot be granted the same privileges (Sterberg, 2013). Therefore, the actions of cyber bullies cannot be termed as being ethically wrong. This is because the actions of the oppressed are means of expressing what best interests them.

Ethical egoism does not require moral agents to damage the well-being and interests of others when making deliberate morals. It does not focus on the effects of the one’s actions on others because their decisions are solely based on their self-interest. Despite the fact that both ethical egoism and utilitarianism are consequential, ethical egoism is agent focused (Sterberg, 2013). Utilitarianism is neutral in nature whereas ethical egoism is biased to an individual’s interests. Hence, in instance where an individual commits an offence, which has adverse effects, they should neither be questioned nor punished. This is because this form of egoism allows such actions to take place. It differs from the solutions provided by the utilitarian approach of resolving cyber bullying cases since it advocates that bullies do not have to be punished.

According to ethical egoism, only selfishness is endorsed and not foolishness as perceived.  It displays a form of individualism either where other people have the right to consider their wellbeing and interests or not as long as personal interests are achieved regardless of whether the desires are long-lived or short-lived. Thus, in the case of cyber bullying, it is observed that some of the tormentors were only looking for a source of entertainment as observed in their situation. In accordance with ethical egoism, the bullies are justified, as having done the right thing that they thought was appropriate in satisfying their needs (Sterberg, 2013). When they are contented, they leave the tormented child and believe that they would be back to normal. Hence, their actions are ethically right in line with the egoism form.

Personal Views on the Most Appropriate Approach

            Cyber bullying affects all members of the community either directly or indirectly. Both utilitarianism and ethical egoism approaches deal with ethical issues. However, they vary in their ways of viewing ethical issues. I believe that utilitarianism approach is best suitable in dealing with societal issues. Reasons behind this perception are based on the fairness it presents. Individuals belong to a society that accommodates him or her and offers them a sense of belonging. Therefore, one should ensure that their actions do not have a negative impact on others. Utilitarianism approach emphasizes on equality and justice, which allows every individual to coexist with one another peacefully while living in the same setting. This is contrary to the ethical egoism approach, which only focuses on an individual’s self-interest without considering the effects it has on others, resulting to chaotic situations.

            Additionally, utilitarianism is conventional with the legal laws in the society. Every society has a set of rules, which governs its procedures and conduct. These rules are important in maintaining law and order in the region. Rule utilitarianism provides judgment, which is based on the legal procedures in the society that are beneficial to all members whereas, ethical egoism is based one’s decision. It does not abide by the legal procedures in the society. As a result, confusion and disagreements among societal members arise due its disorganized approach. Consequently, the utilitarianism approach adheres to the legal system in the society, which facilitates regulation and moderation that are beneficial to everyone and not only an individual.


Cyber bullying is an ethical issue as viewed by the sociological theories and perspectives. Better insights regarding cyber bullying have been acknowledged through identification of the ethical issue, the problem it presents, how utilitarianism can resolve it, the contrasting solution presented by the ethical egoism perspective and providing my personal views about the best approach have to be identified. This has made it possible in understanding the ethical issue from the sociological perspective.


Hunter, N. (2012). Cyber bullying. Chicago, Ill: Heinemann Library.

Mills, J. S. (2012). Utilitarianism. Lanham: Start Publishing LLC.   

Shariff, S. (2008). Cyber-bullying: Issues and solutions for the school, the classroom and the home. London: Routledge.

Sterberg, J. (2013). Self and others: A study of ethical egoism. S.l.: Springer.

Stop Cyberbullying. n.d. Retrieved from

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